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EPA announces roadmap for aggressive regulation of PFAS, a family of chemicals long left unchecked

For years, the Fayetteville Chemours plant has dumped PFAS, including GenX, into the Cape Fear River. CFPUA, which serves Wilmington, pulls drinking water from the river.
Kelly Kenoyer
For years, the Fayetteville Chemours plant has dumped PFAS, including GenX, into the Cape Fear River. CFPUA, which serves Wilmington, pulls drinking water from the river.

The latest move was announced by Michael Regan, the former NCDEQ secretary who now heads the EPA, and includes a plan for a final toxicity assessment for GenX.

The EPA today announced a roadmap for regulating Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS. The chemicals are linked to liver damage, thyroid disease, and cancer, among other health impacts.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper joined EPA administrator Michael Regan to announce the new regulations, starting a requirement that PFAS manufacturers provide the agency with toxicity data and information on categories of PFAS chemicals.

The roadmap of regulations includes the following, according to an EPA press release:

  • A final toxicity assessment for GenX, which can be used to develop health advisories that will help communities make informed decisions to better protect human health and ecological wellness.
  • Aggressive timelines to set enforceable drinking water limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure water is safe to drink in every community.
  • A hazardous substance designation under CERCLA, to strengthen the ability to hold polluters financially accountable.
  • Timelines for action—whether it is data collection or rulemaking—on Effluent Guideline Limitations under the Clean Water Act for nine industrial categories.
  • A review of past actions on PFAS taken under the Toxic Substances Control Act to address those that are insufficiently protective.
  • Increased monitoring, data collection and research so that the agency can identify what actions are needed and when to take them.
  • Continued efforts to build the technical foundation needed on PFAS air emissions to inform future actions under the Clean Air Act.  

Governor Cooper spoke at a press conference at North Carolina State University about the new regulations. “Clean air, clean water, are a right," he said. "We owe it to our children, we owe it to our children’s children.”
He went on to praise North Carolina native Michael Regan, who became EPA Administrator after leaving the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. "We're also moving to designate certain PFAS as hazardous substances under the EPA's superfund law," Regan said. Superfund sites force companies to pay for the cleanup of unsafe chemicals and other substances.

This announcement marks a significant turn in the EPA’s regulation of PFAS. Prior to these announcements, only two legacy chemicals in this category had been given health advisories by the EPA.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant new to the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.